Review: Sakura Spirit
It has become somewhat of a tradition on this site for me to review a “girly game” for Valentine’s Day. When I use the term “girly” I don’t mean something cute and feminine like Hello Kitty or The Unicorn Princess. Instead games like Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball or HuniePop usually end up taking the spotlight. In the past I’ve always tried to pick out games that, while being somewhat sexy, have always had some redeeming qualities. For this reason, I’ve always avoided the cheap adult-themed games that tend to lurk around every corner of the the Steam online store – particularly, visual novels.
However, several years ago there was a massive bundle sale on visual novels from a developer called Winged Cloud. The bargain shopper in me couldn’t pass up the deal, and as a result I suddenly found myself owning a number of visual novels from the Sakura series. In case you are not familiar with this genre of game, visual novels are exactly what they sound like. They are essentially linear stories that feature still pictures (with occasional animations). The majority of visual novels originate in either Japan or China and are later translated to English. True visual novels (like the ones popular in Japan) typically don’t feature any real gameplay elements, they just tell a story. However, as the genre has evolved, some developers have included interactive portions or mini-games. All types of visual novels exist. But the vast majority them seem to be adult-themed and more often than not, anime based.
Sakura Spirit is the first game in the well-known Sakura series of visual novels from Winged Cloud. Interestingly enough, Winged Cloud is not an Asian developer. Instead, this company is based in the west, but they make products that are heavily influenced by Japanese VNs.
Sakura Spirit is a story about a young martial artist who is about to participate in a major tournament. In order to settle his nerves, he visits a religious shrine in a nearby forest to pray for good fortune. However, upon entering the shrine he finds himself transported to an alternate time and dimension where he gets caught in the middle of a conflict between the local authorities and a duo of humanoid fox-girls.
As you might expect, the story is full of cutesy, bishōjo motifs. The female characters are busty and oftentimes naïve. However, the story isn’t particularly erotic. There’s no actual sex or full nudity anywhere in the game itself. Fans of the genre would likely categorize Sakura Spirit as “ecchi” – meaning; light and playful. I personally have no problems with this. But if you’re expecting a VN that’s a “certain type of way”, you’re probably going to be disappointed.
When it comes to gameplay, there’s not much to talk about. This game is really nothing more than a script and a slideshow. The only interactivity comes at the very end, when the player is prompted to select one of two options on how to progress the story.
That being said, the artwork is extremely well done and the story itself is entertaining, even if it’s pretty short. The artists really do an excellent job. Everything from the characters themselves to the background and even the UI are simply stunning to look at.
Considering this was Winged Cloud’s first foray into the visual novel industry, I suppose it’s not a bad debut. Visual novels are not really my cup of tea, but I still would have preferred something with a little more interactivity (like a Choose Your Own Adventure book). Still, if you’re looking for some ecchi entertainment for Valentine’s Day, you could certainly do worse than Sakura Spirit.
Version Reviewed: PC
Difficulty: Easy – As a visual novel there’s really no level of skill needed to play the game. You simply click the mouse or press the Enter key to progress to next screen.
Story: The story presented in this game is cute and playful. It does have a certain charm to it. But it is also not likely to appeal to everybody. Fans of anime and ecchi-style stories are most likely to find this game appealing.
Originality: This game was released in 2014. By this time, visual novels had been around for quite a while. And despite the fact that this game was developed in the west, there’s really nothing new brought to table with this release.
Soundtrack: The soundtrack for this game is very well done. It is filled with traditional Japanese instrumental music. It is appropriate for the story and it actually ended up being my favorite part of the game.
Fun: If you’re a bookworm and anime fan, the story of Sakura Spirit is likely to appeal to you. In this regard, you’ll probably have a pretty enjoyable experience. But if you go into this game unaware of what it’s all about, you will likely be disappointed.
Graphics: Being a visual novel, this game features colorful, anime style visuals. The artwork is very well done.
Playcontrol: No issues. Point and click.
Downloadable Content: N/A
Mature Content: Suggestive themes, adult situations, and heavily suggestive artwork.
Value: This game sells for $10 on Steam. Considering that the VN features a little over an hour’s worth of content, I can’t say that this is a particularly good deal. Even if you’re a VN fan, you’ll probably want to wait for this to go on sale. It’s not unusual to see Winged Cloud games sell for 50% or more during Steam sales.
Overall score (1-100): 50 – Visual novels are a very niche genre of games. Even so, Sakura Spirit is mediocre at best. The artwork and soundtrack are excellent. The story isn’t bad either. But it’s short and it doesn’t really have anything unique to bring to the table. Still, if this is your sort of thing, it might be worth picking up if you can find it on sale.
Original System: PC
Available today on: PC – (Updated as of Early Winter 2023)
Best Experience: PC – (Updated as of Early Winter 2023)
Other Reviews In This Series:
Sakura Spirit – Sakura Angels – Sakura Fantasy – Sakura Clicker – Sakura Beach – Sakura Swim Club – Sakura Beach 2 – Sakura Santa – Sakura Dungeon – Sakura Shrine Girls – Sakura Space – Sakura Maid – Sakura Maid 2 – Sakura Nova – Sakura Maid 3 – Sakura Christmas Party – Sakura Agent – Sakura Valentine’s Day – Sakura Magical Girls – Sakura Gamer – Sakura Halloween – Sakura Cupid – Sakura Sadist – Sakura MMO – Sakura MMO 2 – Sakura Sweetheart – Sakura Moonlight – Sakura Moonlight 2 – Sakura MMO 3 – Sakura Apprentice – Sakura Fox Adventure – Sakura Gamer 2 – Sakura Knight – Sakura Succubus – Sakura Knight 2 – Sakura Succubus 2 – Sakura Knight 3 – Sakura Succubus 3 – Sakura MMO Extra – Sakura Succubus 4 – Sakura Forest Girls – Sakura Forest Girls 2 – Sakura Forest Girls 3 – Sakura Alien – Sakura Succubus 5 – Sakura Succubus 6 – Sakura Alien 2 – Sakura Melody – Sakura Gym Girls: Prologue – Sakura Gym Girls – Sakura Succubus: Cosmos Christmas – Sakura Succubus 7